SBJ/October 8-14, 2012/Labor and Agents

Federal trial will decide whether agent Mintz can leave former firm, take clients with him

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

A jury trial in federal court scheduled for next month in Los Angeles could determine whether NBA player agent Aaron Mintz can leave and take clients from his former employer Priority Sports & Entertainment to his new employer, CAA Sports, without penalty.

The case also could result in a “multimillion-dollar” verdict for Priority Sports, lawyers for the NBA and NFL player representation firm have said, according to court papers filed in the case.

The trial is set to begin Nov. 13 in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson.

Mintz
Mintz first left Priority Sports on March 23 and filed suit against his former employer of 11 years the same day, asking for a federal court declaration that the restrictions in his employment agreement with the firm be declared void. Mintz’s employment agreement with Priority Sports included provisions preventing him from competing with the agency or signing the firm’s clients for two years. But Mintz contends in court papers that such restrictions are unenforceable under California law.

Priority Sports countersued Mintz and Creative Artists Agency, parent company of CAA Sports, on April 17, alleging claims of breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, defamation and unfair business practices, among other things.

A number of CAA employees, including President Richard Lovett, as well as NBA players, including Washington Wizards guard Jordan Crawford, and even former Indiana Pacers general manager David Morway, could potentially be called to testify, according to court documents filed by attorneys for Priority Sports.

Lovett, Crawford and Morway are on a list of more than 30 individuals who have information on the case, according to court documents submitted by Priority Sports attorneys.

Officials at CAA and Priority Sports, as well as their attorneys, did not return multiple phone calls.

Federal Magistrate Suzanne Segal, who is overseeing the pretrial motions in the case, granted Priority Sports’ motion last month to allow attorneys to depose more than 10 witnesses.

It is not clear how many NBA player clients may have joined Mintz at CAA Sports. Mintz recently signed Toronto Raptors forward Dominic McGuire and was listed by the National Basketball Players Association as the agent of record for Crawford and the co-agent, along with his former boss and Priority Sports & Entertainment CEO Mark Bartelstein, for Pacers forward Danny Granger.

It also was not clear whether there are talks to settle the dispute before trial. A pretrial conference is set for Oct. 29.

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